Message from the President | April 2019

President/CEO A.J. Baynes
President/CEO A.J. Baynes

State lawmakers went past the midnight deadline on April 1, but eventually passed the $175 billion-dollar budget. There were several issues on the table that could be detrimental to our business community. Here are some on the Chamber’s radar and how they fared.

Permanent 2% property tax cap: As we have mentioned in this column before, the Chamber and Governor Cuomo support making the 2% property tax cap permanent. The Chamber believes it is imperative to provide a slowdown in the growth of property taxes in New York State, but equally as important, the state needs to eliminate the burden of unfunded mandates such as Medicaid on our local governments to help them hold the line on their own budgets. We are happy to report the permanent 2% property tax cap was approved.

Tipped wage: Governor Cuomo proposed eliminating the tipped wage in his 2018 State of the State address. It would require restaurants to pay employees full minimum wage ($11.10 an hour) and likely, do away with tipping. This would drastically cut the amount of money workers can earn, which in many cases, currently exceeds the minimum wage. The Chamber is opposed to ending the tipped wage because it is not only detrimental to workers, but to restaurant owners who will pass the additional cost onto the consumer. We are happy to report this issue was not included in the budget.

Single payer health care: The rising cost of providing health care is affecting the ability of many of our businesses to compete. While the New York Health Act would address the approximately 5% of New Yorkers who are uninsured, the Chamber is concerned about the cost, estimated to be between $92-$226 billion that would need to be raised through new taxes and fees. The Chamber instead supports legislation addressing the underlying costs of care to ensure that healthcare is affordable and accessible to everyone. We are happy to report this issue was not included in the budget.

March came in like a lion at the Chamber, with a full-slate of events both fun and educational for our members. We kicked off the month taking the wraps off a new hotel in Amherst. This is the fourth La Quinta in our region and the construction of another new hotel signifies our economy is alive and well.

The Chamber also provided a lot of networking opportunities in March for our members: dinner for our Emerging Business Leaders at Bonefish Grill, Lunch Mob at the Irishman, and a packed Business After Hours at Evans Bank hosted at its branch inside the historic Mennonite Meeting House. If you haven’t been inside, check it out. Much of its character has been preserved and there are some interesting occurrences, possibly from the afterlife!  We wrapped up the month welcoming several new businesses to the Chamber at our Member Education Series.

Being a regional Chamber, we are always looking at ways to collaborate with our partners in other communities. We found the perfect opportunity at this month’s Business After Hours. When member business SPAR Self Defense in Tonawanda agreed to be the host, the Chamber reached out to the Ken-Ton Chamber to make it a joint event. This is sure to be a win-win for members of both organizations. You can register here.

We also have some great educational opportunities this month. Register here to learn how to make the most of your time during an Open ProNet on April 9th, and we have a three-speaker Member Education Series on April 30 with vital information on promoting and protecting your business online. Melanie McGovern from the Better Business Bureau will discuss online reviews, Jess Andrews from National Fuel will present on social media and Neil Carroll from Nickel City Graphics will talk about incorporating video into your online marketing strategy. It will all take place in the beautiful, newly-built conference room at the Aesthetic Associates Centre. Be sure to register here.

Excitement is building for our next big event: the Small Business Awards Luncheon and Showcase on Friday, May 17th at Samuel’s Grande Manor. We anticipate another great turnout this year and will soon be announcing the businesses and individuals we will be honoring. If you haven’t booked a vendor table for the showcase, register here. There is a discounted price for tables secured before April 15.

The weather is starting to break, so the Chamber will be looking for ways to embrace the new season. Keep us on your radar, and remember, my door is always open.